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At joyful Mass, Archbishop Gregory ordains 10 new priests for Archdiocese of Washington

During a June 15 Ordination Mass at the National Shrine, Archbishop Wilton Gregory does the laying on of hands on Deacon John Benson, one of 10 new priests whom he ordained for the Archdiocese of Washington. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Presiding at a Mass on what he noted was a “joyful day for the Archdiocese of Washington,” Archbishop Wilton Gregory ordained 10 new priests for the archdiocese on June 15 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Addressing a standing-room congregation of 3,500 people filling the largest Catholic Church in the United States, Archbishop Gregory said, “God’s people are gathered here in joy this morning, because these 10 men are being invited to begin their priestly ministry in imitation of the Good Shepherd.”

In his homily, Washington’s archbishop encouraged the men who were about to be ordained to model their lives after Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and reflect Christ’s love and care for His flock as they carry out their priestly ministry.

“Beloved sons, you are to be pastors in the image of the Good Shepherd,” he said.

At the dramatic two and one-half hour Mass, Archbishop Gregory did the laying on of hands on the candidates for priesthood, asking the Holy Spirit to fill them with wisdom and grace, and then he extended his hands over the candidates, offering a prayer of ordination, as he ordained Father John Benson, Father Joseph Cwik, Father Brendan Glasgow, Father Christian Huebner, Father Ebuka Mbanude, Father Stefan Megyery, Father Patrick Mullan, Father Benjamin Petty, Father Jan Pietryga and Father Michael Russo.

Archbishop Gregory anoints the hands of newly ordained Father Ebuka Mbanude with chrism during the Ordination Mass. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

The dramatic procession at the beginning of the Mass was led by an honor guard of about two dozen Knights of Columbus, followed by 24 deacons, more than 175 priests and the 10 men to be ordained priests. The procession also included Archbishop Gregory; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop emeritus of Washington; and Washington Auxiliary Bishops Mario Dorsonville, Roy Campbell Jr., and Michael Fisher.

After the readings, the candidates for priesthood were called forth by name and presented to the archbishop as being worthy of ordination. Archbishop Gregory approved the candidates, and the congregation applauded as a sign of affirmation.

In his homily, Archbishop Gregory thanked the candidates’ families, and he encouraged the future priests to devote their pastoral ministry to helping people draw closer to Jesus and find freedom in Christ’s love and truth and to seek healing through God’s mercy.

“You are to share the Church’s treasure of faith in the sacraments you celebrate,” said the archbishop.

Archbishop Gregory said the Eucharist should be at the heart of their ministry and at the center of their lives. “The Bread of Life which you break for people must be the source of your strength,” he said.

He also encouraged them to remember the mystery of the sacraments they celebrate and never let their liturgical ministries become routine, because they represent God’s presence. The archbishop also asked them to be men of deep prayer in imitation of Jesus, and let their journey of faith and their words and service reflect their prayerful search for the Lord.

While priestly celibacy might seem an enigma to the world, “still it remains a wondrous gift for the Church,” Archbishop Gregory said, noting that the priests by witnessing to Christ’s selfless love can be like the grain of wheat in the Gospel that can lead to a bountiful harvest for God.

“Be men of transparent goodness,” he said, encouraging them to reflect joy, integrity, honesty and warmth in their priesthood.

Archbishop Gregory noted that they would soon join the presbyterate of Washington. “We are all ordinary men,” he said, noting that the archdiocese’s priests have different interests, including some who play soccer and others who prefer golf, and some who might consider themselves traditional and others who are progressive on church matters, but all are brother priests who need the support of each other as they shepherd God’s flock in this area. Speaking of the new priests’ unity with him as their bishop, he said they are called to work together to build up the body of Christ in the archdiocese.

“My young sons, soon you will stand in the midst of God’s flock as new priests,” said Archbishop Gregory, who encouraged them to follow the advice of St. Peter in that day’s second reading, who called on priests to be witnesses of Christ and tend to the flock in their midst. “Give them a shepherd’s care, always,” the archbishop said.

After the homily, the ordinandi offered promises to carry out their ministries faithfully and to be obedient to their archbishop. The 10 men then lay prostrate before the altar as the congregation offered prayers for them and called on the intercession of the angels and saints, chanting a litany of the saints that included prayers to the Blessed Mother, to St. Joseph, St. Peter and St. Paul, St. John Paul II, and St. Teresa of Calcutta.

During the Mass, the 10 candidates for ordination to the priesthood lay prostrate before the altar, signifying their willingness to give up their lives totally in service to Christ and His Church. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Archbishop Gregory then did the laying on of the hands on each candidate for ordination, and all the priests in attendance lined up and laid hands on them. Moments later, Archbishop Gregory offered a prayer of ordination over the candidates. Then the newly ordained priests were invested with stoles and chasubles by priests who had mentored them during their vocational journey.

Now wearing their priestly vestments, the new priests each knelt before the archbishop, who anointed their palms with chrism. Members of the new priests’ families brought up the offertory gifts, and Archbishop Gregory moments later placed the chalice and paten in the hands of each new priest as they knelt before him, as a sign that as priests they will be presiding at the Eucharist.

During the Ordination Mass, Father Thomas Kalita (second from right), the pastor of St. Peter's Parish in Olney, vests newly ordained Father Brendan Glasgow (second from left), who grew up in that parish. Another new priest, Father Christian Huebner (at left), was vested by Father William Byrne (at right), the pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac. During the investitute, each of the new priests was vested with a stole and chasuble by a priest who had mentored him. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Then Archbishop Gregory, followed by all the priests in attendance, offered a sign of peace to their 10 new brother priests.

The new priests then joined the archbishop at the altar during the consecration of the Eucharist, and they also joined him in distributing Communion to the people at the Mass.

Archbishop Gregory offers a sign of peace to newly ordained Father Stefan Megyery during the Ordination Mass. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

After Communion, the Choir of the archdiocese’s Reemptoris Mater Seminary sang a joyful song of thanksgiving, accompanied by guitars.

Moments later, the new priests stood side-by-side in front of the altar, offering their first blessing to the congregation, and then they were joined by Archbishop Gregory for a group photo.

Loud applause cascaded through the basilica as the 10 new priests smiled and processed down the center aisle, following the deacons and priests.

After the Ordination Mass ended, the Archdiocese of Washington's 10 new priests processed down the center and side aisles and were greeted with loud applause. The new priests included, from left, Father Ebuka Mbanude, Father Jan Pietryga, Father Michael Russo, Father John Benson, Father Brendan Glasgow and Father Benjamin Petty. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

After the Mass, the new priests offered blessings at chapels downstairs surrounding the shrine’s Memorial Hall and in the hall itself.

Like the people in the congregation for the Ordination Mass and like the people whom they will serve in parishes in the archdiocese, the priests ordained that day come from different backgrounds and from throughout the area, from across the country, and from around the world. Four grew up in Maryland cities or towns surrounding Washington, D.C., including Father Benson who is from Bethesda, Father Cwik who is from Poolesville, Father Glasgow who is from Olney, and Father Mullan who is from Rockville. Father Huebner is from Nebraska, Father Petty was born in Ohio, and Father Russo is from Massachusetts. Father Mbanude is from Nigeria, Father Megyery is from Germany, and Father Pietryga is from Poland.

More than a dozen women wearing traditional African headdresses marched through Memorial Hall, singing and swaying as they made their way to the chapel where Father Mbanude, who was born in Nigeria, would be offering his first priestly blessings. In Igbo, a language of Nigeria, they joyfully sang, “God is good, all the time.”

Later Tochukwu Obiwuma, one of the women who like many of those present is a member of the Nigerian Catholic Community in the Archdiocese of Washington, said it was a joyful day for local African Catholics, “because we knew him personally before he became a priest. We knew him as one of our brothers.”

Maria Russo, the mother of Father Russo, noted that about 50 family members and friends from the Boston area came to witness his ordination. She said his example has “brought a lot of people in my family back to church. That’s the biggest thing he’s done for our family.”

Father Y. David Brault, the pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Silver Spring, said driving to the ordination reminded him of his feelings as he drove toward St. Matthew’s Cathedral for his ordination to the priesthood in 1977. “You begin to well up inside with deep emotion. You begin to sense your own unworthiness, and your gratitude to God and the mystery of His grace in your life,” he said.

One of the new priests, Father Cwik, became the first priestly vocation from Our Lady of the Presentation Parish in Poolesville, where Father Brault had earlier served as the founding pastor.

“It’s a tribute to the fact that not only did we build the church (there)… but the community was able to sow seeds in his heart that made him desire to serve the Lord in priestly ministry,” said Father Brault.

Newly ordained Father Joseph Cwik offers his first priestly blessing to people in the basilica's Memorial Hall after the Ordination Mass. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

At one chapel, Brendan Glasgow Sr. and his wife Beth received a priestly blessing from their son, Father Glasgow.

“It’s the accumulation of a beautiful faith journey,” the father said, adding that he was inspired by his son’s openness to responding to God’s call to priesthood. Beth Glasgow added, “My heart is full of gratitude to the Lord for his generosity on our family.”

Another of their seven children, James Glasgow, is also a seminarian for the archdiocese, and the family is also celebrating the recent birth of their first grandchild to their oldest son and his wife. Father Glasgow will be baptizing his niece this summer.

The following day, June 16, Father Glasgow celebrated his first Mass at the family’s home parish, St. Peter’s in Olney. When asked how special that Father’s Day would be for him, Brendan Glasgow Sr. smiled and said, “For him too!”

Father Brendan Glasgow blessed a mother and child after his ordination as one of the Archdiocese of Washington's 10 new priests on June 15 at the National Shrine. Standing at center in the back are his parents, Brendan Glasgow Sr. and Beth Glasgow. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)